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Crime-Filled Paterson, N.J. Staring At 100-Plus Police Layoffs

PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Budget problems may result in fewer police patrolling the streets of one of the Garden State's most violent cities.

A third of the officers are scheduled to be laid off, fueling fears that the cuts will mean a rise in crime, reports CBS 2's John Metaxas.

Crime is already up in Paterson and this cash-strapped city -- the third most populous city in New Jersey -- has the second highest level of gang activity in the state. Citizens here said it's not the time to lay off any police officers -- let alone a third of the force.

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"This is bad, because the people need protection you know," resident Maria Isabel Padilla said.

"I think we need so many more police officers because people are getting hurt around here left and right," Debra Gatling added.

But the pink slips went out Monday and unless something changes, there will be 134 fewer police officers on these streets come April 1.

Mayor Jeffrey Jones said he has no choice because the police union refuses to grant any concessions to help him close a $12 million budget shortfall.

"We're talking about everyone just giving in something -- giving back something," Jones said. "It's not a question of political positioning, not a question of contract breaking. This is a question of we don't have the money."

The union sees things differently, saying it's offered $4 million in savings but wants a guarantee against layoffs.

"The plan that we have now was offered to them a month ago," Paterson PBA President Steven Olimpio said.

Still, the mayor insists sacrifice must be shared.

"I've participated in a furlough since January. Every pay period I give up a day," Jones said.

Nobody's happy about the cuts, least of all the people of Paterson. They come at a time when the city is trying to keep violent crime under control. Deaths by gunfire here were up 38 percent last year.

"Things are getting worse out here every day. You can't even come out the door to go to the store else somebody is getting killed," resident Malique Stevens said.

The fear here is that budget constraints could be hurting citizens' safety. The cuts could eliminate a detective unit that investigates shootings in the city and scrap plans for an anti-gang unit.

Think the layoffs could have been avoided? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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